Printed in Helvetica and preceded by a forward slash, the numbers 017 glow enigmatically at the corner of Cambie Street and West Cordova. Is it an ode to a year that’s yet to happen? An entry code required to access the racks of crisp garments visible through the shop’s windows? Or perhaps it’s the scene of a minimalist birthday party for a 17-year-old with exceptionally well-tailored taste?
The actual answer may surprise you. “I was just playing around with Photoshop and I really liked the way it looked,” 017’s cofounder and creative director, Clayton Chan, tells the Straight during an interview at the Gastown space. “And then I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to build this into a brand.’ There wasn’t really a meaning behind it—there’s still no meaning behind it.”
But while the boutique’s name (pronounced “zero-one-seven”) may lack definition, there’s clear intention behind the way Chan works. The style-savvy business grad—and cofounder of local backpack company VELT Designs—prefers taking the runway less travelled when it comes to buying. Combing through the market for hard-to-find labels and “advanced contemporary” designers, he stocks 017 with Ts, pants, and coats so fluid that they blur the line between traditional mens- and womenswear.
“We take a very androgynous approach to the men’s side of things,” explains Chan, who opened the shop with his friend Tommy On earlier this year. “We want women to be able to pull things from brands like CMMN SWDN and Helmut Lang, because girls are wearing looser garments nowadays too, right?”
Ladies, the young entrepreneur relays, have been especially fond of New York designer Siki Im’s laid-back pieces, including a reverse-terry oxblood sweater with zipper detailing. The high-quality construction and slim sleeves cater to both sexes, offering a relaxed fit that still feels polished. Patchwork pullovers and cropped bombers by menswear line CMMN SWDN—the progressive brainchild of two designers who once helmed Kanye West’s Paris-based label—have also been a hit.
That’s not to say that guys can’t dip their toes into womenswear. Streetwise fashionistas will be drawn to Harmony Paris’s sporty sweatshirts—reminiscent of ’90s Fila jackets and complete with ring zipper pulls—as well as Maison Kitsuné’s playful knitwear, much of which is adorned with silver-foil graphics or all-over prints of critters. It’s the fit and thoughtful details in these garments that lend themselves so well to unisex dressing.
Even the jewellery—a selection of handcrafted skull and animal rings by British brand Dog State—crosses boundaries. “When you buy something, the number one thing should be ‘Does it fit well on you?’ ” Chan stresses. “So all the clothing that we have in here, we’re very careful in considering how they’ll fit on a person.”
Chan hopes to introduce a handful of new names to 017 come spring, including “darkwear” designer Rick Owens. Next week, the boutique will also have drinks and live music on hand, plus a special promotion for visitors, as part of the biannual Gastown Shop Hop. With unmarked tags for Ts and sweaters starting at $200 and coats at $800, this will be a rare opportunity for Vancouverites to nab an investment piece at a discounted price.
“If it fits you well, it’s gonna be your go-to,” says Chan. “It’s not some loud graphic that’s really hot for one season and then you don’t wear it anymore. That’s not what we’re trying to do.”
The Gastown Shop Hop takes place next Thursday (October 20) from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information about the event, click here.